I'm not a real horror movie fan- I don't pretend to know much about the genre and the tropes of the classics. I enjoy scary-ish thrillers, but I'm not running to my local cinema to catch the latest Eli Roth. However, I liked The Babadook (a bit too much) and, apparently I should be embarrassed by this, I really enjoyed The Woman in Black. Anecdotally, that perhaps that had a lot to do with my obsession of Victorian ghost stories, film noir and *ahem* Daniel Radcliffe. I felt compelled, however, to catch The Hallow, the Irish Film Board's latest project, which promised to be edgy, dark and, yes, terrifying.
The Hallow, a first feature from acclaimed music -video Director Corin Hardy, had it's world premiere at Edinburgh Film Festival last month to a supportive and enthusiastic horror movie crowd. The Hallow is a dark, imaginative and unforgettable homage to the horror film genre - ultimately the very thing that Corin dreamed for his first film. "I wanted to make a monster movie" he said at the Q & A that night. "I grew up watching Alien, Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, real spellbinding stuff, and started story-boarding my perfect monster. I think I realised it in The Hallow."
Corin hits the nail on the head. The Hallow's monster is at once spellbinding, fantastical and terrifying, whilst being very much grounded in reality. When a family arrive to their new home in Ireland, forestry expert Adam (Joseph Mawle) gets to work analyzing the forest surrounding his new home, accidentally trespassing on ground belonging to The Hallow. Local legend has it that this 'fae' creature was cast out of it's home by human invaders. Whilst Adam is cynical, his wife Clare (horror film alumni Bojana Novakovic) is nervous, and fearful for their new baby Finn. Pretty soon the family are under threat from this unknown force.
It's a simple premise, but with a fresh energy, brought to life in part by the mysterious monsters and in part by the lush, Irish setting. Shot entirely on location in Ireland, with 4 out of the 6 weeks gruelling shoot taking place at night, the effect is obvious- The Hallow breaks the mould. It's darker, literally, as there's a different quality to the black. The protagonists are running through a beautiful forest filled with monstrous intent. The real horror is in the not knowing what these monsters are until the half-way mark, where their grotesque almost-human quality makes them all the more frightening out of the darkness. Baby-snatchers, they make several attempts at taking Finn. In one stand-out scene, in which Adam's car breaks down in the forest, the tone turns devastating. Shock, real horror and a sense of uselessness in the face of the peril adds a new dimension to the narrative, supported by an incredible soundtrack by James Gosling.
The film's creativity in it's tone is spot on, and will inspire a new generation of horror fans looking for an intelligent, cult monster movie.